Stress management allows you to choose a proactive response in stressful situations and environments. Get these free, safe, and painless stress management tips
What is stress?
Stress is a naturally occurring reaction of your body to the psychological or physical demands of the environment.
Stress reaction increases blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration as well as other changes to major body systems. These reactions prepare the body for “fight or flight” from physically dangerous or psychologically threatening situations. Stress reaction can be positive or negative.
Positive stress reaction leads to increased performance, feelings of success and confidence and allows the body to return to the normal state.
Negative stress or mismanaged stress keeps the physical reaction of the body turned on and does not let the body completely recover to the non-stress state.
What causes stress reactions in the workplace?
Task demands – having to repeatedly learn new processes, meeting unrealistic deadlines.
Time demands – frequent deadlines, schedule conflicts, “too much to do”, interruptions and unpredictable schedules (particularly for employees that have daily rhythms in shift work).
Physical demands – environment (weather, noise, vibration) and activity (standing, walking, bending, lifting).
Role demands – added responsibility in supervision or leadership. • Interpersonal demands – interacting with the public, customers, co-workers.
What are the consequences of negative stress?
Negative stress or mismanaged stress reactions to workplace demand can be grouped as:
Behavioral – may include alcohol or drug abuse, accidents, violence, and eating disorders.
Psychological – may include family problems, sleep disturbance, depression, and burnout syndrome.
Medical – may include heart disease, stroke, headache, and some cancers.
What are the long term effects of stress?
Long-term effects of negative stress can lead to exhaustion, reduced ability of the immune system to fight off illness and disease and put staff members at risk for health problems and work performance issues.
What are the signs and symptoms of stress?
Stress can affect you physically, behaviorally, and cogitatively or emotionally.
However, the signs and symptoms of stress vary from person to person. Below are a few common signs and symptoms of stress.
Physical signs and symptoms:
- Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Insomnia or other sleep problems
- Muscle aches, muscle tension, or even back pain
- Clenching or grinding teeth
- Weight gain or loss
- Digestive concerns such as diarrhea, constipation, stomach upset or nausea
Behavioral signs and symptoms:
- Over or under eating
- Use or abuse of drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
- Decreased productivity or neglecting responsibilities
- Isolating oneself or social withdrawal
- Relationship and interpersonal conflicts
Cognitive and emotional signs and symptoms:
- Forgetfulness and memory problems
- Moodiness or mood swings
- Depression, sadness, or sense of loneliness/isolation
- Anger, irritability, anxiety, short temper, or impatience
- Job dissatisfaction or burnout
What are the phases of stress?
When stress persists for an extended period of time or if the stress is severe in intensity, it is typical that a person may find herself or himself feeling stressed.
Over-compensating in some areas or completely neglecting others are both common means by which the pressure of the stress causes a state of imbalance.
Knowing the phases of stress can alert us to when we may be experiencing chronic stress.
Phase 1: High Functioning
In phase one, individuals are engaged and managing the pressures that come their way. Their motivation is high and they are engaged in both home and work life. If there is stress at home, it is managed and does not affect work life, and vice versa.
- Committed to tasks
- High satisfaction
- Able to deal with stresses as they arise
Phase 2: Becoming Disillusioned
In this phase, the individual begins to feel the pressures of home and/or work as seeming overwhelming at times. They often choose to disengage to try to refocus their energies.
- Begins to avoid certain people or tasks
- May have lapses of concentration
- Loss of satisfaction in a variety of areas
Phase 3: Withdrawing
In phase three, the person feels a general sense of dissatisfaction. The individual finds both home and work life draining. The flow of negativity between home and work is now open.
- Loss of enthusiasm for work, home, relationships, recreation
- Many people and tasks are now major irritants
- Issues at work affecting personal life and vice versa
Phase 4: Complete Disengagement
When an individual reaches phase 4 they are no longer able to cope with the demands of everyday life. There is complete disengagement from the expectations of both home life and work life.
- Complete disdain for many people and/or tasks
- Loss of all patience and sense of humor
- Lack of motivation and enthusiasm
What are organizational stressors?
These stressors are a result of poor planning on the part of employers or management.
It may be the lack of role clarity, where employees are not sure who is responsible for what task. Or employees may lack the training to complete their roles properly. Organizational stressors also include systemic stresses such as a business not being viable in the market.
What are task-related stressors?
These are stressors that are built into a particular role. They are the anticipated pressures of a profession. For example, an ER worker may have the combined stressors of shift work, dealing with individuals in crisis and the emotional toll of dealing with life and death situations
What are workplace stressors?
These stressors impede the ability of an employee to complete their tasks with excellence, but their cause is not inherent in the organization or the task. These are typically mismanaged issues, such as conflicts in the workplace, being in an environment not conducive to an employee’s work style, or a disrespectful workplace.
What are unhealthy reactions to stress?
When we are overwhelmed and lack coping skills, we tend to fall into unhealthy patterns of behavior.
Unmanaged stressors result in unhealthy symptoms.
If the stressors are withdrawn and we are allowed to rest and recuperate, we may be rejuvenated and return to a level of acceptable productivity.
However, if the stressors persist or we are not aware of means by which to rejuvenate, our ability to be productive and contribute is reduced.
As stress increases, we tend to withdraw from the people around us.
- Making excuses to not socialize
- Diminished leisure group activities
When under stress we crave pleasure and will find ways to add it to our lives.
- Video games
- Alcohol or drugs
When a situation exerts pressure beyond our perceived ability to cope, avoiding the issue may give us a sense of reprieve.
- Work harder
- Work less
When we feel overwhelmed, venting our frustration in a strong emotional reaction provides quick release.
- Directed at self
- Directed at others
What are the three components of stress?
There are separate parts to our experience of stress. When we are able to analyze and break apart our stressful experience and determine which areas are the source of stress, and which components we are able to influence, we are then able to chart a course of action.
• What is the task, issue, situation or person causing the stress?
• Can the stress be eliminated? What are the consequences?
• What can you do to help yourself?
Strategy: Modify your environment.
• How much control do I have in the situation?
• How am I perceiving the event?
Strategy: Alter your thinking patterns.
• What are my physical responses?
• Am I taking care of myself physically?